Deacon Newton’s Homily — 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

As we approach Advent the readings focus on our preparedness regarding the second coming of the Lord. The underlying question is, are we ready? What value have we added to carrying on the mission of Jesus? Jesus uses talents in the parable today to help us understand. The largest unit of currency in Rome during the time of Jesus was called a talent. Just one talent was so valuable that it would make anyone rich in those days.


There is a well-known interpretation of the Gospel reading today that the value of talents refer to the value of the personal gifts God has given us both of ability and substance which are to be shared in service to others, especially the poor and needy. There is nothing more valuable than that. If we do this we will be known as the children of the light and of the day. We will then be always prepared for the Lord’s second coming, we will not be caught off guard.

I could stop right there and say that is the main message of the Gospel today which undoubtedly is the key to our salvation, but there is an underlying tension implied that we should do this out of fear of the Lord which we should explore.

In the First Reading it mentions how wonderful a gift of a wife is to a husband, more valuable than pearls. She is to be praised for all she does out of love. But there is a line that states: “… the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” You might ask is she doing it out of fear. Why fear the Lord?

In the Second reading it states: “… the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night.” I am sure we find it scary with the thought of someone breaking into our home in the middle of the night. Why is a mental picture being drawn for us to fear the coming of the Lord?

In the Gospel when referring to the servant with one talent he states: “… so out of fear I went off and buried your talent.” He was afraid of what the master may do if he had lost the money he was entrusted with. The master then called him a wicked and lazy servant for not even trying to take any action that would make him a profit. We can equate this to angering God if we do not use the gifts He has given us, thus implying fear of the Lord. We also have the Responsorial refrain stating: “Blessed are those that fear the Lord.” Why are we being told to fear the Lord?

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Have you ever held yourself back from acting on something due to fear? That fear may stem from uncertainty or lack of confidence for various reasons. Ultimately it is a fear of failure and rejection. I can probably say one word that most people can relate to, anxiety. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. Does God want us to feel this way? No, of course not, for God loves us.

Romans 8:31-32 states: “… If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with him?” With God on our side we cannot fail. When Jesus was crucified some said he failed, that he died a shameful criminal’s death. We of course know that Jesus brought life, not death. This leads us to take a close look at what we perceive to be failure when we look at the challenges we face in our life.

It is much easier said than done to just say use the gifts God has given us. Don’t be lazy and bury these gifts. Take the chance and use them in service to God, knowing that God has your back. There takes a great leap of faith that we will not fail in what we do. But we must examine what we mean by failure. Failure does not mean trying to do something and it doesn’t work out the way we want. Failure is never trying.

We have a natural tendency to fear setbacks. Franklin D. Roosevelt said at his 1933 Presidential Inauguration during the depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear is paralyzing, it causes us to fail because it causes us not to act. If we overcome our fear to not act, yes we may fall, things may not work out the way we expected it. Maybe it will take many attempts to perfect our talents or for them to affect a positive outcome with those we try to help. That is not failure, it is doing God’s work no matter how long it takes.

This is the point of the Scripture readings today regarding fearing the Lord. Fearing the Lord is referring to not engaging God in our lives, that will only lead to failure. We have free will, if we choose to not engage God in our lives He will let us go our own way. Isn’t that something to fear?  But if we engage God He will help pick us up no matter how many times we fall trying to serve Him.

In John 6:20 Jesus said: “It is I. Do not be afraid.” In Isaiah 43:2 the Lord states: “When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you.”

God is always with us. We just need to include Him in our lives. If we do we cannot fail, even if we stumble and fall we are a part of carrying out the will of God. Let’s do our part, let’s use the gifts He has given us to serve our Lord and God. Let’s not let fear of failure define us. Let us fear more not engaging God in our lives, and allow ourselves to stumble and fall in the pursuit of God’s will. Jesus stumbled and fell while carrying his cross to Calvary. Have faith in God’s love for you and through Him make each moment of your life be driven solely by the love of God.

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